On occasion of MyConstitution’s 3rd anniversary, we reproduce the Welcome Speech by Edmund Bon Tai Soon (then Chairperson of the Bar Council’s Constitutional Law Committee) at the launch of the Campaign. The event was officiated by Datuk VK Liew, Deputy Minister in the PM’s Department and his speech is here. Ragunath Kesavan’s speech as President of the Malaysian Bar is here.
Ladies and gentlemen, my fellow Malaysians.
Welcome to your Campaign. Welcome to a new movement.
This is a historic occasion for us – this country. This country has never seen a campaign quite like this. So I’m glad we’re here today to witness it together.
The MyConstitution Campaign, or Kempen PerlembagaanKu, is about you.
This Campaign is for you, the rakyat.
This Campaign is by us, the people, and it must be carried by the people for it to be successful.
And so, I thank you, for being here. I thank you for rocking this country in support of this Campaign. Because it is you, and your participation today, that will set the tone for how this Campaign will proceed.
My fellow Malaysians.
What is this Campaign about? Why are you here today? What are we trying to achieve?
The MyConstitution Campaign aims to bring the Federal Constitution to 28 millions Malaysians, to you. The Campaign will explain key messages of the Constitution in the language of the layperson, and deliver the enduring stories of the Constitution to you. To every Malaysian.
The Federal Constitution is the supreme law of the land. It is above any other law in this country. And in fact, it is the Federal Constitution that determines how all other laws are made.
Laws that determine whether or not you are a Malaysian. Laws that determine whether or not you are free to walk in your neighbourhood, or town, or kampung, or city. And whether or not anyone can stop you from being there. Laws that determine whether or not you are equal to everyone else in this country. Laws that determine whether or not you can sing or dance; or watch people singing or dancing. Laws that determine whether or not you have a right to exist; and what it means to exist.
The Federal Constitution doesn’t spell out each and every thing that can or cannot be done, but it provides a general direction or blueprint for how things should be done, and what is allowed in general and what is not allowed in general.
It is to the Federal Constitution, and to the spirit and intention of its directions, that lawmakers are supposed to turn when making laws.
It is the laws that lawmakers make that affect our lives.
If the laws have been made well, and conform to the requirements of the Constitution, life should be good for us.
But if they have been made badly, and do not conform to the Constitution, then life might be bad for us.
Sometimes, too, good laws are made, but are not applied in the spirit of the Constitution.
If this happens, we, the rakyat, suffer.
So why is it important for you to know the Federal Constitution?
Because, all things said and done, the person responsible for looking after you is YOU.
We, as a society, look out for each other, and work in concert as a team. This lends us strength.
But if not every one of us knows the Constitution – and its promise to us, the rakyat – then, there is a break in the link that is supposed to make us strong.
My fellow Malaysians.
The Federal Constitution is a complex document written in a legalistic fashion. Few Malaysians understand it.
This is a tragedy.
So, this Campaign is going to simplify it for the rakyat. So that the rakyat can learn about the Federal Constitution – regardless of who you are in society.
Because we are Malaysians. And this is your Constitution.
I think we should say from the outset that this is a partisan campaign.
We can’t help it.
When we say this is a campaign for the rakyat, we mean it.
We side with the people – the rakyat – with you and no one else.
Make no mistake though. This Campaign is not going to fight your battles for you.
We want to help you educate yourself on the Constitution, on your rights, so that YOU can fight your own battles.
We want to help you empower yourself, so that you can be a fully participating member of the democratic system of this country.
If an issue arises that concerns the Constitution, we want you to be able to read the Constitution for yourself, and analyse the issue for yourself.
It is only by participating in civil society that we can develop fully and properly as a civilisation, as a people, and as human beings.
This is something the Government recognises too, which is why they are with us today. We hope that this support will accompany us throughout the Campaign. And we hope that in January 2010, the Government will officially agree to partner with us in this Campaign. We also hope that other organisations and State Governments will step forward to partner with us or contribute what they can.
My fellow Malaysians.
This project started in April this year with the formation of the Constitutional Law Committee.
The people who are currently behind this Campaign are people from not just the legal world. They include students, academics, journalists, activists and laypersons.
Nearly all of this group are under 35 years old.
This does not mean that older people are not welcome or appreciated. In fact, we are utilising their wisdom in our workshops and forums; in the sharing of knowledge borne by years of learning and experience. The ‘Conversations on the Constitution’ dialogue today will showcase that.
But the driving force behind this Campaign is the young. And this is how it should be.
For it is the young that will inherit what is started today. And it is they who will most benefit or suffer from what is done or not done today.
Which is why, if you look at the MyConstitution logo, you will see that it comprises children. They represent the future of this country.
The MyConsti kids are also colourful. As we are colourful. And they are together. As should we be.
This Campaign is just starting now. But so far, we have achieved a great deal of positive interest and commitment in it.
On October 10th, we set up our Facebook MyConstitution fan page, and set a target for ourselves to get nothing less than 2,000 fans by today.
I’m happy to say that we hit that target three days ago, on November 10th, at 2.01pm.
As at 3pm today, we now have more than 2,500 fans.
And this is just Facebook!
The MyConstitution Campaign has received unprecedented media coverage.
In just the last two weeks, we have been featured in, among others, Off The Edge, New Straits Times, New Sunday Times, Berita Harian, Harian Metro, Sinar Harian, Malay Mail, The Star, The Sunday Star, theSun, KLue, The Malaysian Insider, Malaysian Mirror, The Nut Graph, Merdeka Review, Sin Chew Jit Poh, Astro Awani, Astro’s radio stations, NTV7 and TVSelangor.
We have also been featured in the leading blogs in this country.
I think we have achieved a media support base that would make political parties jealous!
We hope that all media will partner with us throughout this Campaign.
All these features can be viewed on our PerlembagaanKu.com website, Facebook fan page, and YouTube page. You can also participate in discussions or get more information from our MyConsti Twitter page.
In addition to media coverage, we have received donations and pledges from various legal firms, tertiary institutions and ordinary citizens.
As a non-profit campaign, every one of the committee members is a volunteer, contributing in his or her own private time. We pay for our own food, drinks, paper and pens.
We intend to produce nine booklets – ‘The Rakyat Guides’ – in the coming two years of this Campaign. And we would like to see each booklet in each of the six million households we have in Malaysia, and be able to reach 28 million Malaysians with the contents of our booklets.
This means that somehow, we have to produce at least 54 million booklets.
We hope that the Federal and State Governments, as well as public and private institutions and organisations will partner with us on this.
But since this is the rakyat’s campaign, we would appreciate any contribution the rakyat can make. Everything goes to the Campaign.
For today, may I encourage every person here to take out 10 Ringgit from your wallet or purse and donate it to this Campaign, in exchange for 10 booklets.
My fellow Malaysians.
The MyConstitution Campaign is a campaign for the rakyat by the rakyat.
We would like you to join us. We want your participation.
Please don’t just wait for whatever we come up with to come to you. Make suggestions, contribute ideas, contribute your time, your knowledge, your skills. Volunteer to distribute these booklets.
My fellow Malaysians.
You have with you the very first booklet ‘The Rakyat Guides: What is the Federal Constitution?’
You are the first people to get it.
When you leave this Auditorium later today, we hope those booklets will go with you – spreading out into this city and country, as you do.
Take this booklet, read it.
Go home, show it to your family. Get them to read it.
Take it to your office. Get your workmates to read it.
This weekend, if you meet up with your friends, show it to them – and get them to read it.
Explain the Campaign to them.
You may not know the Constitution yet. And neither might they. But together, you, they, and we, can help each other learn.
My fellow Malaysians.
This is the beginning.
You are the beginning.
Ten years from now, I hope you, I, we, will all be able to look back on this day and be proud of what we started. And of what we have achieved.
The Campaign will only be as good as the members who run it. The Constitutional Law Committee is privileged to have 99 comrades of diverse backgrounds including representatives from the Sabah Law Association, the Advocates’ Association of Sarawak and the Sarawak Indigenous Lawyers’ Association. Before I take my place, let me record on behalf of the Bar Council our sincere gratitude and special acknowledgment of the work by many of the following individuals for us to have come so far:
Firdaus Bt Husni
Grace Wong Phui Mun
Kwan Will Sen
Samuel Leong Chan Yan
Michael Loo Yeong Huei
Low Boon Seong
Paul Linus Andrews
Nadia Bt Abu Bakar
Yeoh Tung Seng
Wong Fook Meng
Daniel Joseph Albert
Leong Yeng Kong
Yvonne Young Ai Peng
Tey Jun Ren
Lim Hern Gene
May Chow Wei Cheng
Yap Yin May
Janet Lee Sim Kuen
Azhar Azizan Harun
Tiu Gi Gyn
We would also like to thank Mien Lor who directed and produced the 1st ‘Rakyat Service Advertisement’, Joe Kidd who did the artwork and layout of the ‘The Rakyat Guides’, and the Fadzil brothers – Fahmi and Fikri – who designed and conceptualised the website. And of course not forgetting our Bar Council Secretariat staff – our Committee’s Executive Officer, Lim Ka Ea, and Khairul and Kelvin.
We acknowledge the lawyers and firms for contributing towards funding Phase 1 of the Campaign as follows:
Lee Hishamuddin Allen Gledhill
Ranjit Singh & Yeoh
Malik Imtiaz Sarwar
We also acknowledge ATC College and Taylors College for their kind donations.
Thank you to former Bar Council member, Roger Tan, who in his last term mooted the idea to establish the Constitutional Law Committee.
I am sure all of us are fired to go, so step inside this movement, and let’s rock this country together.